Letters

Amherst School Board

Tentative Agreement with Amherst Education Assoc.

To the editor:

Negotiation Update We start December with an update on our negotiations with the Amherst Education Association, which represents our teachers. For the last four months, we have been working with the teachers on a new contract that would begin when the current one expires on June 30, 2022. 
      When these negotiations began over the summer, our goals were to reach an agreement which would provide additional instructional time for our students, recognize teachers for their efforts, and have a reasonable impact on taxpayers. 

      After meeting with a mutually agreed upon mediator, the Amherst School Board and the Amherst Education Association have reached a tentative agreement. It will now go to both sides for ratification. The Amherst School Board will vote on this at a future Board meeting. 

Details of the tentative agreement will be available at that meeting.

Facility Project UpdateDid you know that our schools have leaky roofs, temperature swings, asbestos, inadequate air exchange, an inadequate number of appropriately sized classrooms, teachers working with students in original closet space, temporary portable classrooms detached from the main building, and drop off and pick up congestion? 

      The Amherst School Board will bring forth a warrant article on the March ballot for the facilities project that has been discussed in recent years. While final approval will come in the near future at a Board meeting, the Amherst School Board anticipates the total cost of $83 million to appear on the article. The elementary portion of the project will see an expansion on the site of the current Wilkins school for $52.2 million; the middle school renovation project is estimated to cost $30.8 million. 

      The Amherst School Board wants you to make an informed decision when you see this initiative on the ballot in March and is giving you multiple opportunities to learn more. Our next public information session is Thursday, December 9 at 6:30 p.m. at Wilkins Elementary School. Tours of the school will follow. Community meetings have been scheduled monthly and are on the SAU calendar found at SAU39.org. Online access to the meeting will be available on Zoom with a link provided on the SAU39calendar. We invite

you to learn about the proposed project for the elementary building as well as the renovation project to update AMS. At the forum, you’ll be able to check out the school, see the preliminary plans as they are developed, and ask questions of board members and the project architects and designers. Information regarding the project is continuously updated and can be found at https://jfac.sau39.org. 

Supervised Out-of-School Suspension Pilot ProgramAt our November 10 board meeting we approved a new pilot program for students placed on an out-of-school suspension to serve their suspension in a supervised setting. This program allows for students who need to be separated from the school community to do so in a safe environment that allows for academic progress during the suspension and an opportunity to make the suspension a teachable moment.

Upcoming Meetings/Events:

  • December 7, 7pm- Amherst School District Ways & Means Committee Meeting: Amherst Town Library

  • December 9, 6:30pm- Facilities Public Forum: Wilkins Library

  • December 16, 6pm- SAU Meeting: Souhegan Learning Commons

  • December 24- January 2nd- No School

  • January 3, 6pm- Amherst School Board Meeting: Souhegan Learning Commons

  • January 11, 6pm- Amherst School District Bond Public Hearing: Souhegan High School 

  • January 12, 5pm- Amherst School District Public Hearing: Souhegan High School

  • January 22, 6:30pm- Facilities Public Forum: Amherst Middle School

Sincerely,

Tom Gauthier, Chair

Elizabeth Kuzsma, Vice Chair
Terri Behm
Josh Conklin
Victoria Parisi

We Need Carl Back At School Where He Belongs

To the editor:

      This year has been very disappointing and upsetting. Souhegan High School has lost its most valuable asset. The loss of Carl Benevides, beloved music teacher, mentor and musician is heartbreaking and has impacted these students in an extremely negative way. They have lost valuable learning that they would have gotten if Carl had not been taken from them. These students deserve to have the music program that was established and developed under the instruction of an amazing teacher, musician and mentor.

      Aside from this very big concern that many of us share, I am writing with a few new issues that I have. We were promised that nothing on the calendar would be taken away from these music students. From my understanding, administration decided that they were not going to have jazz night like we were originally promised. It is also my understanding that Peter Hazzard, new “substitute teacher”, insisted that jazz night was not cancelled and that he suggested a smaller gathering in a classroom to take place instead of the typical jazz night in the theatre. While I do not oppose doing things differently when necessary, I am furious about this change. Musicians put just as much effort into preparing for and putting on performances as athletes do preparing for their games. Mike Berry keeps saying that arts and music are so important to him but that is not the message that he is sending.

      It is unfortunate that music and the arts are misrepresented in school budgets and are not getting equal attention to what the sports program gets. I also understand that this was changed after parents complained and it is now being held in the theatre. However, Cole came home saying that he was told by the “substitute”, Mr. Hazzard, that it was silly to do it there because they wouldn’t fill it and only maybe 60 people would show up and it holds way more than that. That is a very insensitive thing to say to these students who want to be seen as musicians and have worked hard and have shown up day after day even though their world has been turned upside down. I want someone who sees value in the music program and wants to encourage these students and make them excited to be there. Unfortunately, the person who was doing that was taken away from them and no one has filled that position.  I can speak on behalf of my student, who was getting up every day to go to school because of Carl and what he provided to these music students. Now he wants nothing to do with school and it is a negative place and he is lost. He isn’t even excited about music anymore. This is heartbreaking.

      I was also very sad to hear that the music room and studio are no longer available to students.  I would love an explanation to why this change was

made. The jazz band students were allowed to meet together after school for a month and a half with no teacher to supervise or give direction. Now all of a sudden that is not okay? I was upset that they didn’t have a teacher to help prepare them for all states and upcoming concerts in jazz band. These students are more than capable of being responsible in the place they worship. They respect that space. I have no problem with the music students staying after school to work in the studio to do what they love. My son was staying after school to work in the studio a couple of days a week to work on audio production and recording. This is just one more thing that has been taken from him. 

      The last piece that I would like address is the change that was made that they can not borrow a school instrument anymore. I am so upset that this is no longer being allowed. I can’t afford a new guitar right now. Cole wants to learn the bass guitar and he has borrowed it  for the weekend multiple times since the beginning of school. It is ridiculous that these students don’t have this option anymore. They allow students to check out books from the library or a calculator for math. Why should this be any different? This has never been abused and the students take amazing care of the instruments. It seems like Souhegan is just trying to break these students and take their love of music away. It is no longer fun for them and every time they turn around they lose another valuable piece to help them learn and grow. They lost their teacher, their space to continue playing and practicing after school and the ability to try new instruments. What’s next? 

      I was glad to see the article that was written in The Claw. Although I strongly disagree with one of the statements, “Souhegan’s music programs are only as good as the talented student-musicians who participate in them, and year after year the Band and Jazz Band never disappoint. Students are the driving force behind any program, and Souhegan Music will most certainly continue to thrive in the future.” I disagree, I don’t mean to take anything away from this hard working and very talented group of music students but without proper direction and guidance they can not be as good as they could be. You are only as good as your leader takes you. They need the driving force and support of Carl Benevides. Unfortunately, they are not thriving and will not thrive again until these problems are addressed, corrected and reversed. We need Carl back at school where he belongs before anymore damage is done.

 

Tamra Biedrzycki

Amherst

DECEMBER 2021